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Monday, November 5, 2012

Processing

I don't know how much psychobabble the rest of you are familiar with, but there's one term that's pretty much the bane of my mental existence, processing.

Unlike several aspects of psychology/psychiatry that I don't necessarily "believe" in (I'm not saying Pavlov's dog's mouth juice didn't runneth over at the sound of a bell or anything--but some things I just don't agree with or put much faith in), processing is definitely a real thing.  It  is also a real bitch.

I didn't even learn the term until I was smack dab in the middle of an incident in which I was essentially required to do it, so I'm not going to assume everyone else knows what it means.  I also, however, don't really care for clinical definitions, so here's the best I can come up with:  processing is, basically, dealing with your shit.  I'm sorry, your emotional shit.  Processing is pretty much the opposite of the standard coping mechanism of "don't think about it, push through it, and push past it."  It means intentionally focusing on a painful situation, recognizing all the emotions it's causing, figuring out why it caused them, and accepting those emotions and causes, along with their often inevitable effects.

Sounds pretty simple on paper right?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, no.  It's like your own little level of hell.

"Torment designed just for me?  Oh Dante, you shouldn't have!"


It is so much easier to not process, to not accept, to not look directly at some of the ugliest parts of ourselves, and to not relive times significantly negative enough that they require forced processing.

You see, we actually process things all the time.  I had a technology based hissy fit yesterday.  The thermostat was not doing what I wanted it to do, AGAIN, and I was getting ridiculously angry.  But behind that anger was frustration, failure, and shame/embarassment.  I thought I had that thermostat all figured out.  I even looked up the damn manual (which, BTW, was pretty fucking vague), read through it several times, and pieced together how to program that snide ( YES, THE THERMOSTAT IS SNIDE) little touch-screened temperature tyrant.  I was so proud of myself.  And it seemed to work . . . for a bit.  So I tried again.  And again.  And yesterday, when it was 79 degrees in a house programmed to be 75, I snapped--complete with a colorful string of invectives directed toward that smug little rectangle on the wall.

I ended up taking some "me" time ("I need you to watch the toddler and leave me ALONE.") and while my hands were busy making order out of the chaos of my craft room, my brain whirred along, sorting shit out.  20 minutes later, I felt better and had nixed the idea of "accidentally" dropping the thermostat directly behind the rear wheel of one of the vehicles.  I had figured out what was really getting to me and figured out where to go from there.

Unfortunately, life often throws us challenges a little more difficult than a needlessly complicated method of temperature control.  Situations that wreck our worlds take much longer than 20 minutes to work out.  And even then, time does NOT "heal" all wounds.  Processing heals, time just forms a scab.  If you force yourself to go through the hell that is processing, when that scab gets knocked off (and it eventually will), you'll be okay, because what's underneath has healed.  If not, you're left with a re-opened wound, which is often worse than the original.  (Not only are you still feeling the pain of the original issue, but now you're having to deal with the additional issue(s) caused by not processing said original issue.  ISSUE.  Hey, you think that the "issue" in "tissue" is a coincidence?)

How do I know all this?  Because I'm busy avoiding my own processing.  Do as I say, not as I do.  I mean, you're not monkeys, right? (I don't want to hear about 99.9% genetic similarity, evolutionary ancestor, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.  You're not in a zoo, banging on a branch in front of fascinated children and horrified parents, so zip it.)

One thing I've never really processed is what I'm writing on for Babble.  It may never see the light of day (glow of the internet?), but it's being written and that's the important part.  Lots of psychologists encourage patients to journal, and processing is one of the biggest benefits of journaling.  Even if you don't consider yourself a writer, it still works pretty well.  Writing things, putting them on the page in ink, makes them more "there" somehow.  You just pour your brain out onto the paper, and when you're done, you can go back and see what's really going on with you.

The other thing I've never allowed myself to fully process?  My grandfather's death.  Even though it's been at least a couple of years, I still can't really think about him without wanting to curl up in a corner and sob.  It's more than missing him--it's the festering and fermentation of issues never dealt with.  And honestly?  The thought of finally processing that scares the absolute shit out of me.  That particular scab feels like it's covering my entire body.  It's one of the few prospects that truly makes me want to drink.  I'd rather lay down on a bed full of hypodermic needles (needlephobic here, folks) than go through with processing that.  He's the first person I ever really lost.  Sure, he was the last grandparent I had left, so I had lost others, but he was different.

Last night I watched Saving Private Ryan, a movie he and I saw in the theaters together.  Maybe I was subconsciously trying to force myself into action or something, because watching that film really muddied my tranquil waters--MUCH more than that particular film should have.

But here I am today, still refusing.  Even as I'm writing this I'm tamping down a lid on what keeps threatening to boil to the surface.  I don't want to deal with it today.  I have things to do--a book to edit, a toddler to care for, and a life to live.  He's still dead and I'm still going to miss him.  Nothing I can do will change that.  Isn't that process enough?

Nope.

Reading over this it seems like I'm processing my unwillingness to process.  HOW META.

I also think I'm trying to prepare myself.  I am going to do this . . . at some point.  And there's a very real possibility I'll do it right here on this blog.  I let my med withdrawal just hang all out there, why not this as well?

So yeah, look forward to that.

And for fuck's sake, don't do what I've been doing.


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